The Cincinnati Bengals had a terrible Sunday, but they can find some solace in two other AFC Norths taking their own respecting whooping. The Pittsburgh Steelers got beat up by the Houston Texans, while the Cleveland Browns lost to the Baltimore Ravens.
For Cleveland, they were without their franchise quarterback in Deshaun Watson. After popping up on the injury report with a shoulder injury, Watson’s status for Sunday was in question until right before game time.
When rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson was named the starter, the assumption was that the Browns’ medical staff did not give him the green light to take the field.
A Monday report from Browns reporter Mary Kay Cabot, however, suggests otherwise.
#Browns Kevin Stefanski said Deshaun Watson was medically cleared to play and that it was his call. He said Watson knows his body best and felt like he couldn't go.— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) October 2, 2023
Based on what Cabot reports, Watson was actually the one to make the call.
Now, a player does know his body best, but the report could draw ire from Browns fans and NFL fans alike. Joe Burrow is playing on what is seemingly a worse injury. On the other hand, Burrow has been a shell of himself, to say the least. There is an argument for him not playing at all.
But as the media cycle goes, some could call Watson’s toughness or competitiveness into question. A 2-1 team with a defense that is off to a historic start had a division foe in town and finding out their franchise guy was cleared to play, but chose not to, could have some on edge, especially since he’s not exactly playing great when on the field either.
And, of course, comparisons to Watson’s predecessor have begun to float around.
A couple years ago I flew all the way to Cleveland to watch a one armed Baker Mayfield get willingly shelled by the Cardinals for four straight quarters. https://t.co/1S6rsgmCvs— Brett Kollmann (@BrettKollmann) October 2, 2023
In Watson’s defense, after Baker Mayfield played on essentially one arm, head coach Kevin Stefanski rewarded his toughness by throwing him under the bus to the media almost instantly. Maybe Watson saw that and decided it wasn’t worth the risk.
There’s an argument for grit and toughness. There’s an argument for playing the long game and resting himself heading in to a bye week. Watson’s health and performance two weeks from now will likely determine what decision seems to be the best.